I lived in Dallas for a year when I was young and forced to leave my native Philadelphia following the closing of the big newspaper I worked for. I found a lot of strange things (like no nightlife downtown) and I didn't find a lot of kindred souls, but I did fall in love with being out West.
One of my wonderful discoveries was a one-man cowboy-boot workshop, which sat on dusty hardpan north of town. The building was wood and adobe -- all gray and tan -- yet inside the shop was an explosion of color! Hides dyed magenta, gold, ultramarine blue, and turquoise were slung from hooks on the walls and hung from the rafters.
Ever since those days I've yearned for a pair of wildly colorful cowboy boots. But they've always been WAY too expensive. Now as a paint-'em-yourself shoe designer, I can make them for myself. So I bought a new pair of Guess boots on ebay last year. I chose them with an eye for the lines of decorative stitching, which would guide my painting like the lines in a coloring book.
Once the boots arrived, I took a photo of them, then printed the photo out in high-contrast black and white. Next I got some library books on cowboy boots (see "Other Books We Love" in the right-hand margin) to see what the real artisans were doing. Then I grabbed my colored markers and
started experimenting. (This is a great way to experiment with DIY shoe design -- no need to work on your actual shoes until you're certain you like what you're considering.)
One thing I discovered was that in the intervening years, my tastes had gotten a little less wild. I ended up painting my boots scarlet, avocado green, and black, and left part of the surface the original brown. I sealed them with a clear neutral. (I used Angelus leather paints since they had the exact colors I wanted).
I have to admit, it took a while, but it was sort of soothing to paint slowly, listening to a book on tape or watching an old movie. And the results are kick-ass!